A “possible arson” was reported at the Psi Upsilon — also known as Castle — fraternity house at 4:04 a.m. on Friday, Division of Public Safety Chief of Fire and Emergency Services Eugene Janda said. Upon arrival, evidence of an active fire was found, along with indications that the built-in sprinkler system had managed to contain the blaze. The Philadelphia Fire Department said that by the time firemen arrived, the fire had been put out. Janda said they believe an open flame met with combustibles caused the fire to spread.
The house — located at 250 S. 36th St. just off Locust Walk — had its alarm system go off. The Philadelphia Fire Department, Penn Police Departmentand Penn Fire and Emergency Services were all alerted immediately, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. The Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s office was notified along with the Philadelphia Police Department. Alongside DPS, both departments will be working on an ongoing investigation into what was described by Janda as a “possible arson.”
Castle President and Wharton senior Michael Pozzuoli declined to comment on the fire. Janda was quick to point out the effectiveness of both the alert and sprinkler systems in this instance, mentioning that without the systems, this could have been a “totally different story.”
Implementation of the sprinkler systems in Greek houses began in the 1960s and 1970s. The systems were so effective that by the early 2000s, Penn had spent at least $32 million ensuring that all 14 residential buildings on Penn’s campus had them in place. “Everyone has a sprinkler over their heads at night,” Janda said.
Janda emphasized safety measures that can be taken to avoid potential disasters. “Get up, get out, and account,” is the main thing to remember in case of a fire, he said. “Account” refers to checking on the status of fellow residents and reporting any missing persons to responding emergency personnel. Greek houses in particular are encouraged to have a coherent, established plan in case of emergency. Though this may not be the most exciting topic to bring up at the next chapter, Janda knows it very well might save a life.